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LG1 Custard Factory, Gibb Street
Birmingham, B9 4AT
UK

07768 877127

Experienced qualitative research. Focusing on consumers and consumption. 

Blog

Pricing paradox

Positioning premium products in price sensitive sectors

Exploiting health and taste drivers has enabled to brands in recent studies to justify premium positionings and capture consumer interest.

Snacking and health convergence

 

 

Shopping without price promotion stimulation - consumer clarity or an unsatisfying chore

Julian Rodway

CMA censorship or a consumer convenience?

CMA censorship or a consumer convenience?

The CMA is drawing up plans to outlaw misleading price promotions. Additionally, 4 major stores are under official investigation after a ‘Super-complaint’ was made against them by the consumer group Which?. Does this herald a new intolerance to consumer price deals?

Bartering and horse-trading are innate market practices, an instinctive consumer behaviour. Dealing is the essential theatre of consumerism. If we take these aspects away will our in-store experience be diminished?

We went beyond the published statistics to talk and walk the aisles on accompanied shopping safaris.

Deal denial does evoke a different shopping satisfaction. Striking a deal is about interacting with the store. Playing the trading game and using cognitive skills:

“I feel I've discovered something and get a warm glow from buying two for the price of one. Okay, it means that I won't need to buy the next can of shaving foam for a couple of months but I feel on top!”

Pricing puritanism was appreciated in the discount environment (you know the two stores I'm referring to).

“The shopping is easier. They have done all the negotiating for you so you can tune out of the deals and just get on with your shopping without having to worry. “

In this situation the sense of market trading satisfaction was more related to the initial store selection rather than the shopping experience.

“It is the difference between taking the bus, sitting back knowing you get there or driving yourself to the supermarket, you are free to make decisions – right and wrong.”

Food shopping maybe a chore but we should not forget for many shopping is a leisure activity. By altering the ground rules we are changing an interactive consumer sport into a drudge, lacking stimulation and satisfaction that may impact on fundamental store perceptions.

Fast product feedback without ‘hall’ test distortion

Julian Rodway

Tuesday afternoon in Birmingham, stopped by a lady with a clipboard outside the Odeon Cinema. She ‘fudged’ around which chocolates I eat to get me into a tacky windowless room. Here, I was presented with an upmarket chocolate (even I could recognize the brand) delivered on a tacky paper plate with a matching paper napkin; while sitting at a grubby formica topped table. At this point I was handed an iPad to record my opinions.

Now having worked at Cadbury I could appreciate that somebody had put a lot of effort and investment in making this ‘luxury’ chocolate. But sampling such a product in that environment…!

I was overwhelmed with the feeling of despair both for the research buyer and our industry. Nothing could taste good in such an unnatural, unpleasant and seedy setting.

Hence the development of ‘Worktops’ as a superior option to hall or central location tastings. These sessions take place in an accommodating hostess’s domestic kitchen, carefully selected for suitability. Consumers are pre-recruited and invited by text to show at regular intervals throughout the day. They are given a simple self-completion questionnaire which is analysed by the next day and reported either that day or the following day. ‘Worktops’ can cope with up to 60 respondents per location per day. This gives a sample which can be significant.

Simple, focused, fast and cheap as chips.

Plus, I qualitatively interview selected respondents to demonstrate key issues. This provides a concise and powerful visual summary.

So far I have undertaken Worktops on:

Coleslaw

Biscuits

Juice

Real people, real domestic environments, really fast and really useful feedback.

If you'd like to know more or see examples do not hesitate to contact me.

 

5 Free essential 'free' planning tools

Julian Rodway

Good planning starts with robust data that gives hard facts and sparks great ideas. Every solid strategy begins with a unique insight. One such insight we had some years ago was that if every drinker who claimed to drink a certain Irish stout, drank just one more pint a month, then the company would need to build another brewery.

But data is expensive, right. Not these days the internet buzzes with facts and figures and whilst you have to exercise a degree of care, the information is out there for picking. However, as George Washington once said, “don’t believe everything you read in Wikipedia”. Here are five of my favourite sites to inspire constructive thoughts.

1 YouGov

Surprise yourself with the ease of mining down info and generating consumer profiles including personality types and lifestyle factors. Compare your consumers with the competitors and then ask the question; why is there a difference?

2 Omgili

Check out your brand. What do consumers think of you or the retailer you supply. Brand sentiment is gathered by trawling through message boards and forums, picking up snippets relating to your brand or your competition.

3 Spezify

A ‘spezific’ search engine that drills through social media sites creating a collage or mood board, depicting the trace brand or service. Imagine what your ‘real brand scrapbook’  would look like. Forget the gloss, this is consumer perception culled from life; using eBay, Instagram, Twitter and more.

4 Trendwatching

Free reports on various topics and markets. Forget the ‘Flakey Futureologist’ consultant here are the groundswells of emerging trends that will define the future.

5 Online Quant

Okay not always free but there are services out there like SurveyMonkey and Toluna that can provide fast and cheap feedback to support an assumption or prove a hypothesis. Or, for more continuous feedback from panels of consumer or staff, how about Qualtrics. This service provides a dashboard to help you keep your finger on the pulse and monitor the heart of your brand.

Online Qualitative (fee not free)

Whilst I still subscribe to face to face qualitative, I have been enamoured with online qual for specifics, like diaries and ‘considered’ topics. Recently, I have been using on line work to prep respondents before groups, giving them tasks or gaining initial impressions. Moreover, a certain project on annuities could not easily have been done without using online and certainly not as quickly or cheaply.

Eye tracking complementing a qualitative assessment

Julian Rodway

Historically eye tracking was expensive to the the client and alien to the participant. Now the cost of the technology has come down and consumers are familiar with the concept. It is rumored that the next iteration of smart phones will include this technology to help navigate the screen and there are computer games which now have eye tracking at their core.

Developing packaging, advertising and latterly web site design, draws on established and proven qualitative skills and experience. It is also dependent on rapport with the respondent. It is predicated on them recalling their initial reaction to the stimuli and 'thinking out loud'. Inevitably there will be a little post rationalisation and distortion of their spontaneous response.

Eye tracking provides a defined record of their encounter and visual assessment. It can serve as a discussion catalyst encouraging consumers to reveal their true responses.

Heat Map - Michelangelo's David

Heat Map - Michelangelo's David

Participants tend to focus in on faces, breasts and genital areas. This is common knowledge and often exploited but what’s interesting is that it seems to have nothing to do with sexual orientation!

Eye tracking is now an affordable qualitative tool and can be selectively used to provide 'hard data' to reinforce findings. I'm thinking of investing in some equipment so bring on the next assignment!

77% of younger men admitted to ‘manscaping’

Julian Rodway

The ‘metrosexual’ male was identified in the 1990s and has now evolved and become established. The practice of ‘manscaping’ is now accepted as an evolutionary trend. Men simply want to look good, not just for sex but in order to give themselves confidence in terms of both work and play.

Older men are keen to adopt health and body care regimes to preserve their youthful appearance and prevent premature age angst. They want to compete with their younger colleagues for longer.

Whilst younger men just want to compete!

But where do men go for advice? Men tend to be in touch with cultural trends through family and peers. They prove to be thoughtful consumers when buying toiletry products, carefully researching products before they buy them either online or in store. They are influenced by companies and brands that share their values and can form a sense of empathy with them. This creates the idea of the ‘male mensch’. These role models go beyond the passé Beckham and obvious Aidan Turner (Poldark) and include successful men from different sectors including business, music, movies as well as acquaintances.

These men are prepared to invest in order to stay on top. Importantly, once the have discovered a product they like, they commit and become brand advocates, initiating close friends and colleagues.

However, men need a reason to believe in a product’s performance. They are impressed by ingredients and science, even if it shared with women’s toiletries. For many established ‘girlie’ brands start with a proven track record. However, the likes of L’Oreal and No7 need to demonstrate they are serious about men and not just flirting!

 

 

 

  

Pricing paradox - premium products in price sensitive sectors

Julian Rodway

Exploiting health and taste drivers has enabled two brands, in recent studies, to justify premium positionings and capture consumer interest.

snacking and health convergence

Consumers addiction to snacking, driven by physical appetite and behavioural occupation, means that the prospect of a positively healthy and natural (fruit and vegetable based) snack was exceptionally well received.

Achieving this and enhancing the proposition with great taste and low calorie benefits helped justify the price premium. 

Snacks catering for adult issues and concerns challenge child oriented conventions which dominate the market. Achieving adult connectivity helps to elevate the offer in terms of real food values and price point.

Milk.png

Milk cheaper than water

With the price of milk being perceived as 'cheap' and 'great value' why would consumers want to pay a premium for a non dairy alternative?

Non dairy options are no longer substitutes for those with lactose intolerance. Rather, they are perceived as healthy options with a real complementary taste benefit.

The soya milk sector is growing in terms of relevance and sophistication. The portfolio of products now includes different non dairy based milk offers including; hazelnut, almonds and coconut. Each contributes to health as well as delivering delicious taste dimensions to everyday drinks and dishes.

Once again, compelling health and taste communications can justify a premium price in price oriented, commodity markets.

 

Technology no longer for geeks

Julian Rodway

"....technology is no longer just for geeks.... it is for grannies as well.... we all need to be able to use it..."

The focus of the research world recently seems to be on technology and UX testing. Specifically, building bridges between software, sites and the user. We have been exploring the web and programmes with both geeks and grandmothers with some very interesting findings. Whilst the instigation of UX lies with the sophistication of smart phones and software, the principles extend to all consumer product interfaces, including anything that comes with a user guide - TV, microwaves, cameras, etc.

Mobile site testing on iPads & smartphones

Usability testing

Usability testing

Client wanted to explore its retail site's migration to mobiles. We explored consumers reaction to the site in terms of aesthetics and usability

We used a fixed camera for iPads and a mobile cradle & camera for consumers' smart phones. 

Valuable lessons were learnt about the different environments and the priorities of simplicity and speed in a mobile situation.

Cross platform software design

Exploring software engagement

Exploring software engagement

Designers wanted to assess the usability of their software across both PC and Mac formats.

We used two large monitors to relay both the screen and respondent facials to the client room and recorded all activity using specialist picture in picture software.

Interesting differences emerge between PC and Mac users, not only in terms of approach and attitudes but also to do with software functionality, etiquette and expectations.

If you would like to discuss any research issue call me I am always happy to give a perspective based on experience and expertise - +44 (0)7768877127.

Shopper Schizophrenia - One Consumer, Two Shoppers

Julian Rodway

"...the money I have saved by online shopping I use to treat us when we go to the store...it's a different shopping expedition..."

Trolley Troll & Indulgent Adventurer

Trolley Troll & Indulgent Adventurer

Climate and commercial considerations are noticeably impacting on consumers shopping routines. Many have been enticed to experiment with discounters for the experience. Some are converting to online convenience and armchair comfort. These emerging channels are challenging established retail conventions, driven by value and a reactionary zeitgeist appeal.

Paradoxically, premium players and ranges are also doing well. It would appear that the UK retail market is polarising.

Pleasure Shopping

Leisure & pleasure experience

Leisure & pleasure experience

Is described as rewarding, regarded as almost a leisure activity for the family.

The retail relationship is less guarded and considered almost as mutually supportive.

Consumers are open to experiment and explore new products and ideas.

There is a perceived positive partnership with the 'trusted' store. Value is less about price with consumers considering the total experience of store and purchases.

The store is respected for being:

  • Inspiring
  • Indulging
  • Mentoring

Consumers enjoy the experience.

Provision Shopping

Duty driven by price sensitivity

Duty driven by price sensitivity

Approached as a retail challenge to secure the best value. It is more like a strategic operation with convenience and cost being the priorities. Regarded as a functional and focus challenge, it is best done without family distractions.

The relationship with the retailer is about competitive market trading, seeking out bargains and value – ‘unilateral hangling'

  • Ruthless commercialism
  • Adversarial
  • Manipulative

Consumers respected the deal and commercialism.

Our study suggests that it is not just about appealing to different target audiences but different shopping traits. Consumers have become schizophrenic, dividing their shopping between the functional at the fun.

It was apparent that many now divided their shopping between essential provisions and top-up treats. Adopting different mindsets for each retail engagement.

Online Case Study - Practical Participation

Julian Rodway

Online is an opportunity to complement conventional research - It is not a subsitute

Client wanted to look at snacking and drinks amongst those who are on the road all day and dependent on snacking for several meal occasions a week.

We conducted a three-part research process. The first two phases being online, resulting in gathering essential data on our participants before encountering them in a group. This provided respondents who were sensitised to the subject and had formulated considered opinions by the time they got to the groups as well as equipping us with valuable point of purchase insights.

 

Online - Exploratory

Recording behaviour

Recording behaviour

At the initial phase our garage grazers were asked questions about their purchases of snacks and drinks. Exploring what choices were made and what influenced these selections. In particular we were interested in caffeine drinks and energy providers.

Online - Ethno Video Diaries and In Car Thoughts

Capturing the moment

Capturing the moment

The second stage was a diary of the purchasing process. Smart phones were used to video and photograph the shelves, merchandising and the ultimate selection they made.  We also explored issues such as storing the drinks in their vehicles whilst drinking and driving. We were especially interested in the packaging and how it was disposed of.

Face to Face Groups

Sharing experiences

Sharing experiences

The third stage comprised conventional groups. Due to having formed a relationship with these participants prior to the sessions the groups were more efficient, focusing on the key issues that the client was concerned with. The participants demonstrated a real sense of commitment having invested their time and thoughts into the subject prior to attending the groups.

I would strongly advocate this marriage of online and conventional groups where you need to understand usage and environmental or circumstantial factors.   If you would like to discuss any aspect of research call me - Julian (+44) 07768877127 

 

 

Attracting Young & Old Consumers to Contracts

Julian Rodway

"...what is the point? I wouldn't understand it even if I read it. It's the deal I'm interested in not the contact..."

Deals, contracts and T&Cs are the same for all customers but treated differently depending upon the age of the consumer. We looked at the two age extremes assessing how complex decisions were made.

Younger - Entice excite engage

Engage, grab attention

Engage, grab attention

Adept at scanning and selectively editing information. Appreciate a balanced objective view, identifying strengths and weaknesses; equipping them to be able to rationalise the decision and subsequently justify to parents and peers. Keen to commit. Discuss with friends rather than elders, want to hear of experiences through social networks. 

Comparison sites used to validate decision.

Older - Clarity simplicity honesty

Explain, reward engagement

Explain, reward engagement

More willing to abrogate the decision and give brand authority disproportionate status. Preference for positive persuasion and fast simple communication. Less patient with detail and complexity. Want to be quickly convinced and committed with certainty to their decision. Debated with partner and opinion of close friends and family sought for technical issues. 

Comparison sites used to explore options.

If you'd like to discuss this or any other research issue call Julian (+44) 07768 877127. The new web site is in draft mode and will be ready soon.

Shopping and consumer buying strategies

Julian Rodway

“… shopping has become more like a game of Sudoku... I have to try to get things to added up in different directions like price and value… it all has to balance with my budget ...”

Economising tactics are becoming accepted as normal shopping behaviour and habits. The basic motivational responses to coping with the 'financial squeeze' can be summarised as; restricting, recycling and rewarding.

Reward - Schizophrenic Shopping

Different outlets different mindset

Different outlets different mindset

Visiting a 'discount' store to hunt out bargains before reverting back to their 'regular' supermarket for the rest of the 'usual' shopping:

    "... Aldi for the pleasure of finding bargains and little treats and Tesco for everything else..."

Danger is the rewarding shopping and 'retail hero' is becoming the discount store.

Recycle - Promotional Partnerships

Sharing the bounty

Sharing the bounty

Hunting for promotional offers with friends and trading or 'dividing up the loot' later:

    "... we go shopping together...it's more fun hunting out the deals and sharing the offers as you don't need 3 packets of whatever..."

Recycling and a reverse exploitation of retailers by buying teams of consumers.

Restrict - Disciplined Shopping

Bound by shopping lists

Bound by shopping lists

Foraging for meals in their cupboards and freezers not supermarket shelve:

    "... I'd pop into the supermarket on my way home to get inspired for the night's meal...now I check and plan the evening before and only buy what I need..."

Impulses now have to be checked and restricted, ethos of eating up and minimising waste.

Should you wish to know more please get in contact. Phone Julian on 07768877127 or email julian@expressionz.com.

Nouveau poor

Julian Rodway

“…I'm living in a house worth over £1 million but I've never felt so poor as I do now… I’m using vouchers when shopping and always looking for promotions…” (The Consumer Paradox)

Consumers are living in an increasingly indulgent and affluent society yet feeling poor! This is the consumer paradox brands need to accept - cut price consumerism (the ebay infulence).

At the start of the Credit Crunch we conducted a year-long study of consumers recessionary reactions. Inspired by the above quote in North London group this summer we are revisiting this project and will be feeding back snippets through various blogs and tweets.

The basic motivational responses to coping with financial squeeze can be summarised as; restricting, recycling and rewarding.

Restrict - Resist impulses 

Only one basket allowed 

Only one basket allowed 

Adopt more disciplined approach to all shopping:

  • Clear idea of what they will be buying when they enter the store.
  • Impulse shopping avoided.
  • Learn to exercise restraint, shopping lists on iPhones. 

Examples: restricted shopping expeditions and use selected stores (discount and favourite). If having to top up take a basket and not a trolley.

Recycle - Revert to traditional practises

Learn to effectively use what they have

Learn to effectively use what they have

Reduce wastage where possible, think about meals and planning ahead:

  • Buy family favourites and resist experimentation, which can be wasteful.
  • Avoid having to throw out food past sell by date by adopting 'better buying' approaches.
  • Transform left overs with ‘clever’ cooking – stir fries, curries, Bolognese. 

Examples: Low wastage makes them feel good, believe they are being responsible consumers.

Reward - Indulge the family not individuals

Compensate and reward

Compensate and reward

Consumers are looking for value not austerity. Retrench to known 'proven' brands and lines:

  • Premium can be justified by certainty. 
  • Seeking 'permissible' shared family indulgences. 
  • Pleasures counteracted puritanical economising

Examples: A ‘special’ meal for family and friends can be a rewarding alternative to 'the usual' fast food restaurant.

Lunchtime Satisfaction - Experience vs Satisfaction

Julian Rodway

"...if I'm buying a sandwich I'm thinking about value ... if it's sushi I'm thinking of the enjoyment..."

Garage grazing and supermarket snacking is an established pattern for many at lunchtime. Consumers see this sector as an indulgence. The choice is an impulsive decision driven by their desire to suit the mood and moment. But shelf seduction can impact on whether the choice is rationally or emotively driven.

Succumb to impulses

Succumb to impulses

Indulgent escapism - light, clean and stimulating

Forget the ingredients it's the experience. Consumers were not concerned about the e numbers but more focused on the eat. 

Need for an authentic experience wasbi, ginger and soy sauce essential elements contributing to the eating ritual.

Better than home made

Better than home made

Filling and familiar with a twist

Familiar with a sense of sophistication to demonstrate a lunchtime moment to spoil themselves with.

Want substance and satisfaction - need to feel satiated. But conscious of value; has to be demonstrably better than home-made to justify the lunchtime extravagance.

The opportunity for added value comes from offering something that emotively tempts and seduces consumers away from their sandwich shelf rationality.